Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Niels Hansen Jacobsen

While surfing around
the net this week,
I stumbled accross
the above portrait.

Lots of people,
including myself,
make portraits,
but what distinguishes
Niels Hansen Jacobsen (1861-1941)
is that the above
has the unity of a ceramic pot,
and a monumental presence,
as well as
feeling ike a unique personality.

Here's another,
though regrettfully,
the subject seems
to have been indiscreet
in his collaboration
with the German occupation.

(and he looks like
he has something to hide,
doesn't he?)

Here's one of his public monuments
which demonstrates
how good monumental sculpture
can be made
from quite ordinary
subject matter

(and it has
a perfectly proportioned

But then,
it turns out
he also he also
turned his hand
to functional ceramics

and ceramic wild life

But my favorites
are his bizarre
horror sculpture

The above is called
"The shadow"

and this one
is the
"Troll in search of Christian Blood"


As a troll myself
(of the internet variety)
I strongly identify
with the subject matter.

And wonderfully enough,
it was first installed
right outside a newly built
Christian church.

many parishioners
did not share
his sense of humor,
so the piece had to be moved,
and has only been restored
to its original location
in the past decade.

This one depicts
death and a young mother.

Another wonderfull piece
that probably relates
to his own experience
with sudden, unexpected

Why did it take me so long
to discover him?

My first contact
with Danish sculpture
was with the erotic specialists
like Henning and Nielsen

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Family Pictures

What am I doing for the holidays?

Looking at family pictures.

My cousin Doug
has just sent me some
digital copies
of a few of the many
photos he's been taking
over the past 40 years.

As you can see from the above,
Doug has never been what you might call
a casual photographer.


Above is an unusual scene
of looking at family pictures
in my grandparents' home
in Columbus, Ohio.

The old lady at the end of the table
is my beloved grandmother.

It's unusual
because the lady to the right of her
is her daughter, Ruth
who lived in California
and hardly ever came back
to the Midwest.

And the second lady from the left
is her niece, Mary Ellen, from Iowa,
whom I also never saw in Columbus.

While the lady at the far left
is my Mom,
who is dressed too formally
for an ordinary family occasion.

So I'm guessing this is about 1970,
and the occasion is
my Grandfather's funeral.

My grandmother looks
just a bit stunned.

This is my crazy Aunt Helen in the mid 1950's

The story goes
(at least as much as I can surmise)
that she had an affair with
one of her college psychology professors.

It was possibly her first romantic experience,
and in the ensuing emotional upheaval,
something about her
got too broken to get fixed.

It's Christmas Day
at her brother Andy's home,
and you may well believe
that the pile of toys on the floor
got bigger and bigger
as more children were born.

(and since my uncle
had been a car dealer,
it always included
things that had tiny motors)

I don't know
who took this photograph,
but how could it be
more poignant?

And that's crazy me
as a Hippy in 1970,
with my cousin Doug, the photographer,
cleverly snapping a picture
through the mirror,
and his father, Andy, to the right.

I haven't changed all that much
over the years.

Except that
I'm not quite so cute,
and I stopped wearing eyeglasses
and headbands.

Here's me debating with Andy.
He was really an independent thinker
with ideas about politics,
religion, and history.

It's just that ... he was always dead wrong.

Jump ahead 25 years,
and here I'm being visited in the studio
by my handsome cousin Greg
who was in Chicago to attend my wedding.

And here's my parents
who had also come up
for that occasion.

The rest of these scenes
are ten years later,
in my parents' home
on my father's 85th birthday.

The gentleman on the left
is holding forth
on some topic
of profound importance.

While his audience
at the other end of the table
is Marin, Doug's daughter,
who has just graduated
from art school.

Here's another artist's son,
Danny Leonard,
without whom
so many events
in my parents' final years in Cincinnati,
including the 85th birthday party,
would never have happened.

And this animated fellow
is my forever
little brother.

(as old as he gets
he will always be four years behind)

Here's Mom.
Behind her
is a bust of her grandaughter,

Monday, December 13, 2010

Yang and Yin at the Ukrainian Institute

What a pleasure
to enter the private space
of these young lovers

Not just the two faceless ones
appearing in the sculpture
but the married couple from Lviv
Vasyl and Svitlana Yarych,
who had this exhibit
at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art.

Vasyl Yarych is a sculptor
in the classic tradition
(via a Soviet art education)
i.e. he hunts for monumentality
in even the smallest pieces.

(though, ironically
he seems to have lost it
in this large monument
to King Danylo)

And, he works the classic
patriarchal Christian
and Roman themes
of European art.

(Europa and the Bull,
Judith and Holofernes, etc)

While Svitlana,
whose paintings appear
in the background above,
works that genre
practiced by women.

she is basically
a fabric designer.
(even if canvas
is the fabric chosen
for the above pieces)

His work is very masculine,
hers is very feminine,
and together
they seem like
such a fine pair of young lovers.
(as might also be suggested
by these gently erotic pieces
that seem to exemplify
a relationship
that is as caring and sensitive
as it is robustly sensual.

(Even if he is 60
and she is 50
years old.)

Much of Vasyl's work
seems intended for
a public or liturgical

But the best setting
for the work
of these are two artists
is really the bedroom.

I can't recall
the work of any Chicago artists
that seems to belong there
quite so much as theirs does.

The title
of these pieces
is "Conversation"

This theme
has not appeared
in American sculpture
for over 50 years.

a great version by Paul Manship.

here's one by my father.

And there's many more --
but none
have quite such
a gentle (though powerful)

This bull has been
thoroughly tamed

The hoped for result
of all this merry making

Here's some
of his religious art.

It's blockish forms
seem aimed
at the Eastern church,
and that Pieta
in the foreground
seems quite innovative.

The standing couples
are all Adam and Eve

Back to back,
they seem
quite docile, don't they?

Why would God
ever want to
throw them out of the garden?

up to her old tricks.

This Prodigal Son
needs to be done
in Ivory

This Kozak,
warrior and bard,
is the embodiment
of Ukrainian manhood.

Big chest,
small head.

Here are
some of
Svetlana's paintings

Not surprisingingly,
she is Assistant Professor
at the Lviv Academy of Arts’
Department of Clothing Design

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Raptor's Eye

Imagine my surprise
to be walking out to the studio
yesterday morning
and look up to see
an enormous bird
in our dying apple tree.

(alerted to his presence
by a very angry squirrel
yelling at him
from a safe distance)

I love these eyes

Here he is
in all his avian glory.

Some quick research
revealed that he is called
the "Broad-winged Hawk"
and he was winging his way
to his winter home
in Central America.

Why do we humans
feel such empathy
for these fierce birds?

Perhaps because
we are so much like them.

And here's the lunch
he was carrying
in his fearsome claw.